Men's Shoe Care: Look Sharp from Head to Toe

Complete your polished look with our comprehensive guide on men's shoe care. From cleaning and conditioning to polishing and protecting, we'll teach you the essential steps to keep your shoes looking sharp from head to toe.
Image Credit@ptguzzo, Peter G in Aklasu Midnight Blue Dress Socks

Your leather Oxford shoes look fantastic. You've invested a pretty penny, and they add to your navy suit’s sophistication (as they should). But that's just one part of a refined outfit. Proper men's shoe care comes next.

Details mean a lot—especially with shoes. It's one of the first things people notice when they see you. You can hope no one notices the dirt and scuff marks. Or you can give your shoes the TLC they deserve.

Keep reading to learn proper men's shoe care to look sharp from head to toe and get the most out of your investment.

Everyday Strategies to Care for Your Dress Shoes

John Lobb

Men's shoe care starts with simple strategies you can employ every day. These essential habits will make sure you protect, care and enjoy your shoes for years to come:

  • Rotate Your Shoes - Owning two or three dress shoes for the office and rotating them will help each one experience less wear and tear.
  • Use a Shoe Tree - Cedar shoe trees help prevent odour and keep your shoes in their intended shape when you're not wearing them.
  • Use a Shoe Horn - Limit the stress you put on your leather dress shoes by using a shoe horn when you put on and remove your shoes.
  • Bring a Dust Bag When You Travel - Protect your shoes when you pack them in your luggage by using a dust bag. You'll prevent your clothes from getting dirty too.

Once you apply these everyday strategies, it's time to master maintaining your shoes' shine and polish.

Cleaning and Polishing Your Dress Shoes

Dirt, grit and scuff marks undermine your style as much as loud designs and inferior materials. Clean and polish your shoes regularly to keep them as stylish as the rest of your outfit.

What tools do you need?

  • Soap or detergent mixed with water
  • Rags or a cloth
  • Horsehair shine brush
  • Leather conditioner or cream
  • Q-tips
  • Wax polish

Keys to Men’s Shoe Care: How to Clean and Polish Your Shoes:

  1. Start by removing the shoe laces and rinsing them in the soap solution, then hang them to dry.
  2. Use shoe trees or stuffing (old newspapers work fine) to help your shoes hold their shape while you clean them.
  3. Dip a cloth in the solution and squeeze dry. Use the cloth to gently wipe your shoes on the cap, the side, the heel cap and the tongue. Rub until you remove any pesky scuff marks.
  4. Use a q-tip dipped in your soap solution to rub the area between the midsole and the upper. Really get in there to remove the dirt and grime.
  5. Polish your shoes and prevent them from drying out. Break out a neutral cream polish (or polish that matches your shoe colour). Rub the cream into the upper of your shoe using a circular motion with a cloth or your fingers.
  6. Leave your shoes to air dry for 5 minutes then you're ready to buff. With a horsehair brush, use moderate to high pressure to buff your shoes until you're satisfied with the shine.

Use a clean cloth to wipe the excess polish, re-lace your shoes, and you're ready for the office, a wedding or a night out on the town.

You're done now that you've cleaned your shoes and can see yourself in them, right? You're in a good spot. But we have a few more strategies to share to keep it that way.

Next Level Men's Shoe Care: Protection and Dealing with Salt Stains

Simple everyday strategies and a regular cleaning schedule already go a long way to keeping your shoes as refined as the rest of your outfit. But what do you do about salt stains and the bad weather we encounter in the wet and cold months? Keep reading to find out.

A Good Offense Means a Strong Defense

Keeping extra shoes at the office is a smart move. But what if you don't want to wear your snow or rain boots to the restaurant for date night?

Messy weather is inevitable. Instead of wearing terrible-looking snow booties over your dress shoes, spray your shoes with a water-repellent coating. Spray it on after cleaning, and they'll protect your shoes from damage the weather may bring.

How to Deal with Salt Stains

Road salt in the winter can dry out your shoes and leave an unattractive stain. If road salt gets to your shoes despite your best efforts, there's a solution. Dilute two tablespoons of white vinegar with equal parts water.

Use a soft cloth (like an old cotton t-shirt) and apply the solution to your shoe's leather. The cloth should be wet but not soaking. You don't want to saturate the leather with too much vinegar solution.

When you've removed the stain, dry your shoe with a cloth. If you see trace amounts of salt, give the process another go.

Men's shoe care doesn't come easy. But neither does refined style. It takes effort, but with enough practice caring for your dress shoes becomes a habit. With the right habits, sophisticated style becomes effortless.

Other than leather dress shoes, what other shoes do you need in your closet? Read It Must Be the Shoes: The Shoes Every Man Should Own and find out.

Your immaculate shoes deserve socks to match.